• 11.0 ~ Hiding from you in this skin
The punch is too much vodka and too little cranberry so Louis downs his cup, thinks `fuck it,´ thinks `good,´ and snatches the ladle to fill another. Everything tastes like poison. Someone’s fucked up the snacks and there are crumbs everywhere, salt and sugar sticking to the table his mum had bought for him, but Louis can’t be bothered with cleaning it up. There’s something red and sticky dribbling down onto the carpet, forming a large puddle, and he has half a mind to think about how much of a pain that’s going to be to clean up later before someone knocks into the table, hard, tipping all the glasses over.
“Christ’s sake,” he says, shoving them aside quickly so he can catch the shot glasses rolling over. He doesn’t even know who the guy is but he looks sheepish enough before he stumbles off so Louis doesn’t snap at him. He gets to his hands and knees before he can think twice about it, snatching up pizza crusts and doing the best he can to mop up the stain with a damp paper towel. Before he can stop it, his mind cuts back to the last time he had done this, been on his hands and knees scrubbing at his carpet. Harry had been beside him, had insisted all morning that they do this on their own without bringing in cleaners. The whole thing had been so silly and so domestic that he’d wanted to pass out with how good it’d felt. It was New Year’s morning and they’d been so hungover they were delirious with it, Harry asking every few seconds if it was okay to eat a piece of bacon he’d found and Louis groaning as loud as he could, trying to sound more put out than he actually was. At the time, he’d wondered if Harry had seen right through him. He would catch his eye every few seconds and smile, like he knew exactly what Louis was doing. It frightened Louis more than he cared to admit. Later, after they had mostly picked up all the glass and done the best they could with the stains, Louis had pushed Harry to the carpet, sat on his dick, and rode him until his thighs ached. When he came it was to the sight of Harry with crumbs in his hair, sweat on his brow, and that same knowing smile on his face. But it’s been a long time since they’ve done that. Louis wills the image out of his head now and doubles his efforts scrubbing at the stain.
“Oi! Mate! What’re you doin!” The bass is so deafening that Louis hadn’t heard him walking over, but Niall claps him on the back all the same. He’s rosy from drinking, cheeks pink and eyes bright, and he’s holding a cup of something aquamarine that’s also found its way down the front of his shirt. “Party ain’t down there!” Louis grins, grateful for the distraction, and gets to his feet.
“No, I know, but if this stains again it’ll never come out.” Niall laughs big, well on his way to drunk already.
“Who’re you? Harry?” Louis tries not to flush and smacks his lips.
“Yeah, alright. Where’d you get that,” he asks, pointing to the cup. Niall looks at it like he’s just realized he’s holding it.
“Oh, dude, I don’t even know.” He takes a big sip and grimaces. “Tastes like piss though, to be honest.” Louis snatches it and takes a huge gulp, it does taste like piss, rolls down his throat like medicine. It’s pure alcohol and pure sugar and he feels it the second it hits his stomach.
“Get me one,” he says to Niall, grinning and wiping the back of his hand across his mouth.
“Ah, there he is! The Tommo’s back!” Niall cackles and grabs his arm and pulls him towards the kitchen. It’s Zayn’s birthday party so Louis doesn’t recognize half the people around him. They’re all beautiful, of course they are, and not for the first time Louis wonders if Zayn has aesthetic requirements when it comes to his friends. Louis looks for him now and sees him in the corner of the room, behind the DJ table with headphones on so big they almost swamp his entire head. He’s sloshing a cup around and keeps laughing, keeps switching songs halfway through so every few minutes everyone dancing has to stop and change rhythm. Niall’s still tugging Louis through the crowd but the beats are too infectious, the air too celebratory, to not get swept up in it. Something pure pop comes on with an easy chorus, so Louis pulls on Niall to stop. They jump up with everyone and shout the lyrics as best they can. For a moment, Louis loses himself in it, loving the press of bodies around him and the beginnings of alcohol kicking through his veins. A girl, he thinks her name is Delia, blows glitter into his face and he laughs and kisses her cheek. Vaguely he notes that there’s glitter on the ceiling as well as those tacky plastic glow in the dark stars, and he can’t even get into the rhythm of the next song because he’s caught up in how the fuck are there stars on his twelve foot high living room ceiling, Harry must’ve- And just like that, all pretense of enjoying this party evaporates.
“That drink, Niall,” Louis says, shouting right in his ear. “Now.” They get to the kitchen and it’s a wreck, of course it is, even worse than the mess in the living room. Apparently, people had brought their own alcohol which was overly polite, given the effort Louis and the rest of the boys had put in earlier to stock up.
“Where’s the drink,” Louis asks Niall, glancing across the room. The vodka from earlier is finally starting to take effect, but it’s not enough. Louis turns to ask Niall again but he’s moved to talk to a group of people in the corner. Running a hand through his hair, Louis sighs and walks off to find it. There are huge barrels of liquid clustered in one corner, Zayn’s very own brainchild, Louis thinks, smirking to himself. Earlier, when he and Zayn had gone to stock up, Zayn had pushed the trolley through Tesco like they were on a mission. `What you do, right,´ Zayn said, `You get a huge barrel, like this,´ and he had snatched five, shoving them down in the basket until they fit, `A shit ton of liquor, some juices, some fizz, like this,´ and they’d zoomed down the aisle, Zayn plucking bottles and dropping them into their baskets so fast Louis had barely had a chance to read any labels, `and you dump it all in! Mix it if you like, don’t mix it, just pour up and drink up! Cheers!´ Louis peers down into them now, each brightly colored and distinct. He grabs the closest cup to him and he doesn’t even dump it out before he fills it to the brim, with the same bluish green drink Niall had. He sips it and it’s strong enough to turn his stomach. Good, he thinks, drinking it for as long as he can in one go. He wanders back into the main room where the music has only gotten louder and where more people have started dancing. He leans against the wall and feels the bass thumping in his shoulder blades. Zayn is still operating from the DJ booth and for a brief moment he thinks about going over to him. It is his birthday, after all, and he can’t remember if they’ve had a proper conversation since all the guests arrived. Louis scans the dance pit, finds it hard to focus when everyone’s waving glow sticks around and someone’s turned on a strobe light, but he sees Liam right in the middle of everything, looking like he’s having the time of his life. Louis contemplates running to him as well, throwing himself into the middle of the crowd and feeding off Liam’s positive energy, marvels at how just a few months ago Liam would have never been the person he’d want to run to, for anything, and he’s getting ready to do it, taking one last disgusting gulp, when-
“Party ain’t over here.” Louis turns his head and it’s Danny, leaning right beside him on the wall. Louis chuckles.
“You been talking to Niall? He said the same thing.” Slow and easy, like he does everything, Danny smiles and takes a long pull from his beer.
“Everything alright?” Louis can imagine what he must look like. He’s never like this. It must seem off to everyone, it definitely feels off to him, the anomaly that is him not being the life of the party, running around like a lunatic and matching everyone shot for shot.
“Yeah, all good,” he says, smiling in a way that he hopes is convincing. “You enjoying it?”
“Absolutely. Thanks again for letting us have it here at your place, it’s sick.”
“Thanks,” Louis says, feeling proud. “It’s not every day we’re home long enough to really put it through its paces.”
“I hear that,” Danny says, laughter rolling deep in his chest. “I heard earlier someone’s filled all your bathtubs with champagne. People are taking turns splashing around in it.”
“Really!” Louis shakes his head and laughs. “Has the birthday boy been in there yet?” he asks, tipping his cup to Zayn. Danny pulls from the beer again, his tongue rolling across his lips after.
“Nah. Too busy being a proper DJ, isn’t he?”
“Proper DJ’s know how to play the whole song though,” Louis says, just as Zayn skips the track right before the beat drops and a groan erupts from the crowd. Danny looks at him for a second then laughs.
“I reckon he can do what he wants.”
“Yeah, on today and every other day,” Louis says, smiling regardless, knowing all too well how no one can ever deny Zayn anything. Danny tips his beer in salute and runs his hand up the long neck of it. His hand is big, Louis notices, seems at least twice the size it was the last time they hung out a few months ago. Someone comes and claps Danny on the back, stealing his attention for a second, so Louis cuts his eye to the side and looks at Danny’s profile. He’s bigger everywhere, it seems, more built and sculpted than Louis can remember. He’s in a simple enough outfit, dark t-shirt and dark jeans, but they fit him perfectly. There’s a confidence in how he’s standing, the set of his shoulders, the way he rests his weight on both feet, and it’s a confidence that Louis’ always responded to, a similarity in personality that’s always made Danny feel like someone who gets him. Danny hasn't styled his hair too much tonight, running his fingers through it easily now, and Louis tries not to focus on the way it falls softly across his forehead, just barely brushing at his temples. When Danny turns back to him, Louis just barely has enough time to snatch his eyes away. His eyes had been roaming the column of Danny's throat, attention caught by the silver chains at his neck. Louis snaps his eyes back and gulps from his cup, lip curling as the liquid slides down his throat, only slightly easier to bear now, and coughs. He can feel Danny’s eyes on him from his periphery and before he knows it Danny has slid closer to him on the wall. The heat radiating off him is enough to prickle the hairs on Louis’ arm.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Danny asks, voice husky, and it doesn’t sound so much like he’s asking as much as observing. Louis turns his head to meet his gaze and his eyes are so close, staring right at him, so that for a minute he’s tempted, so tempted to shout no and no I’m not and not at all. The air feels charged with something heavy, something unexpected, and Louis has no idea what to do with it. Suddenly, Danny takes his beer bottle and, ever so lightly, runs the neck up Louis’ hand to his wrist. The glass is cool on his skin and Louis does his best not to shiver. Danny’s whole upper body is leaning into him now, making it obvious how big he is, big enough to crowd Louis hunched as he is on the wall and keep him there. Louis stares at the condensation sticking to his wrist and tries to grab onto a thought that makes sense. Danny swallows and opens his mouth like he’s about to speak but panic wells up in Louis’ throat and he’s choking out.
“Yeah, all good, need another drink though,” spinning away and back into the kitchen before he can hear what Danny’s got to say. It’s quieter in the kitchen, not by much, but Louis doesn’t want to take a second to pause and hear his own thoughts. His cup is empty so he steps over rubbish and through people and heads straight for the barrels. He fills his cup with what he reckons is at least a double shot’s worth, and knocks it back before he can second guess himself. The heart of the party is definitely not in the kitchen, but Louis can’t be bothered to be anywhere else right now. There’s a couple making out against the island, gross and overeager, and he looks away before his stomach really does turn. It’s annoying, is the thing, the fact that he can’t shake how he’s feeling. Usually it’s not so difficult as all this, god knows he’s done more damage with less motive before, but this feels so heavy, has felt so heavy, that he just can’t shake it off. He figures that the alcohol coupled with the tunes Zayn is banging out coupled with the fact that he has four blissful days off to look forward to means that he can avoid his problems for at least a little bit. Or so Louis tells himself, until he turns, cup full once again, to head back into the party only to lock eyes with Harry. He’s standing outside so Louis sees him through the glass doors, in the middle of the garden with his phone clutched in his hand and pressed to his ear. Dusk is just starting to show itself, the sun falling away over the trees in the forest and casting last minute shadows over everything. There’s a patch of sunlight that hits Harry just right and he turns his face into it, holding his head back and closing his eyes. He’s prim, dressed up in a high buttoned shirt and blazer, dark jeans snug and low around his hips. Harry’s speaking into the phone but when he turns his head and locks eyes with Louis, his mouth freezes in mid sentence and his throat bobs where the words are caught. Louis’ anger soars through him so fast he nearly reels from it. Harry’s staring right at him, mouth partly open, and he’s frozen like he’s waiting, like he doesn’t know how to act until Louis makes a move. Good, Louis thinks, viciously. Don’t move at all. He hardens his expression and without dropping their gaze, he tilts his head back and shotguns his drink. His throat protests the whole time, the taste of it making him want to gag, but it’s worth it for the way Harry’s gaping at him, still not moving and still not speaking. When Louis' done, he slaps the cup on the nearest counter and turns back to the party, grimacing as he walks away. He hopes, so strongly that it hurts, that Harry knows it’s because of him and not because of the alcohol.
Harry was talking to Taylor. Louis didn’t have to be told. He knows that Harry was talking to Taylor because that’s all he ever does these days. If it’s not a text in the morning or a phone call in the middle of a rehearsal, making someone have to fill in for his chorus when he’s gone for ten, fifteen minutes, then she’s there in person, but even when she’s not there in person, she’s there. Her presence is there, and it’s been like a rain cloud over Louis’ head for months now. Even when he’s not thinking about her he’s inevitably thinking about her, about the not thinking about her, and every time he catches her looking at Harry he has to look away. Taylor looks at Harry every few minutes like it sustains her, like she can’t go on without it, without reassuring herself that yes, he does exist and yes, he’s right there. Louis would know what that feels like. He couldn’t stop thinking about Harry from the moment he met him and it feels like he’s been looking at him ever since. When they'd met, Louis hadn’t shut up about Harry to anyone who would listen. It was like a fever the way it’d spread in him, the way his infatuation had left the X Factor house and gotten bigger than the stage, the show, reached every corner of the world, it seemed, until he was getting tweets from strangers and Larry Stylinson was suddenly a name he knew and everybody knew, everybody could see it, on their faces and in their hands and if their bodies hadn’t been enough of a tell, their voices were. Every other word out of Louis’ mouth had been some variation of Harry's name. Louis had loved the attention of the X Factor, the whole point being to get and keep attention, after all, but Harry, Harry had given him the most attention. The best part was that Louis hadn’t even had to ask for it, hadn’t even had to try around him, it had just happened, had fallen out of Harry as easy as breathing. Louis couldn’t take two steps for bumping into Harry at every turn, couldn’t cough a bit throatily before Harry was running to the nearest kettle, couldn’t even get half the joke out of his mouth before Harry was doubled over and laughing. The first time they kissed, it was easy, like coming home. They were set to do a twitcam in a few minutes and all the boys had been ready and present except for Harry. When it became obvious that no one knew where he was, everyone, even the film crew, had turned to Louis, expectant looks on their faces. Louis had been just as clueless as the rest of them so he had told the boys to stall for a bit while he checked around and he couldn’t be far, would never miss something as important as this, but he wasn’t in the bathroom, and he wasn’t on the balcony outside, and he wasn’t in their-
"Harry!” Louis had run into their room, heart plummeting, when he saw that Harry was tucked away in the corner behind the beds, curled into himself, and breathing like he’d forgotten how. Louis had crouched beside him and touched his forehead, cringing at how sweaty it was, terrified at how Harry’s chest had kept moving, heaving, and finally somewhat relieved when he realized that-
“You’re having a panic attack?” He had tried not to sound afraid, showing his inexperience, but he couldn’t help it. They all knew Harry sometimes got a bit sick before live performances, but this, this was new. Harry had nodded, laughing a little hysterically, but he hadn’t stopped looking at Louis. Louis hadn’t wanted him to. It came to him easily, comforting Harry, and he’d never seen anyone having a panic attack before but at the time it had felt like nothing was more important, nothing more vital, than being good for Harry. They’d sat there for long minutes, Louis sitting in front of him and Harry holding onto his knees to stop his hands from shaking. Eventually Louis had noticed and, delicately, twined their fingers together so Harry could hold onto him instead, squeezing the life out of Louis’ fingers. They had only known each other for weeks at that point. Louis didn’t know what Harry was allergic to or what his house looked like but at the drop of a pin, for the first person who asked, he could tell them what Harry sounded like first thing in the morning and the specific way his eyes lit up when he was flirting and how the veins in his neck popped when he sang with all his heart and how, when he was having a panic attack, he’d clench your fingers so hard you’d swear you could hear the bones cracking. So when Louis had looked at Harry, had watched him slowly get his breath back and the color in his face, when he had looked at him and realized that he, maybe, didn’t want to look at anyone else in the same way for a very long time, he had tightened his knuckles around Harry’s and he had leaned forwards and exhaled right against his lips. Harry had whimpered and his heart had still been rabbiting under Louis’ palm but he had kissed him back and pushed his tongue inside like he didn’t want to look at anyone else, either.
The last time they kissed, it was angry, like they hated each other. Louis figures that he kind of did hate Harry in that moment, that maybe that’s why it had come so naturally to him, raising his voice like it was the only weapon he had. By the time Louis got back to their hotel room, stomach churning and head unsteady, Harry was standing in the middle of the room fresh from the shower. His fingers were still damp and slick as they slid on his phone. He was already making plans to go out with random people in a random city that he barely knew. Louis had started it, of course. It had been something stupid, something mundane that he didn’t even care about, but it was an easier hurt to latch onto than what was really hurting him. Than what had just happened a few hours ago, crashing into his life so fast he barely had time to recognize and name it. So Louis had leapt on it, pulling from the pettiest, most random hurts that he had, had thrown them at Harry until Harry was forced to attack back, until they were both pouncing on each other with words. Louis had lost it, is what he’d done. He had yelled until his voice got shrill and when he felt his throat catching in a way that he knew meant he was going to cry, he had directed all his energy to another release instead. Harry might be bigger than him, but that hadn’t stopped Louis from pressing him into the wall and pressing his palms into his broad, still wet shoulders, and pressing his mouth right on Harry's and pressing, and pressing, and pressing into him all the things he didn’t want to say. That was two months ago. Louis hadn’t really known what he’d been trying to say and Harry hadn’t asked, but Louis had held himself open and sat on Harry's cock all the same. Harry had thrust so deep into him that he could feel it on his spine, couldn’t sit properly for days after. In that room, in the last of the twilight creeping through the windows, Harry had just lain there, curling his toes into the carpet, silent like he didn’t even care.
The first time anyone had mentioned it, it was early November and they were at a meeting. That morning, things had been fine, if you counted being hungover and under-caffeinated as being fine. Louis didn’t. Harry had been trying this new `thing´ (“You don’t have to do that all the time, Lou, just say it normally”) where he, according to Louis, denied himself everything that made living worthwhile. No caffeine, no sugar, very minimal salt, no alcohol, and on and on. So not only was Louis hungover and under-caffeinated, he was hungover and under-caffeinated alone. Harry couldn’t be persuaded so he’d been forced to go out the night before with Niall, which was never a good idea, honestly, Niall who could probably drink his own father under the table, and Louis had woken up late, to no coffee in the room and no kettle on. Harry had clucked his tongue at him, saying they didn’t have time and they’d stop at Starbucks before the meeting, he promised they would, but Louis had grumbled and rolled into the shower knowing it was a lie. Harry never stopped for anything. If they were anything but right on time Louis was convinced Harry would have a low-grade heart attack. So there they were, sat around an oval table in a stuffy, windowless room, nary a cup or kettle to be seen. There was a crooked painting on the wall, something impressionistic, or was it surrealist? And usually it wouldn’t, but it had captured Louis’ attention in a way that all the people around the table couldn’t. He was busy wondering who decided that something was art, that these squiggles and colors meant something important, when he had heard her name. It might as well have been an anvil for the way it dropped. Before he had a second to clue in to the details of what was happening, his stomach had plummeted like it already knew, like his body already knew, and there it was, one of the suits, a woman he didn’t recognize, had said it, as easy as you please, but she kept going, Louis couldn’t remember ever hating the way Harry’s name sounded before, but he hated it when it fell out of her mouth. In that moment, half the eyes in the room turned to him and the burning pain of it had nearly lit his skin on fire. He’d wanted to jump up, to leave, to crack a joke, to do anything to diffuse the tension that now clung to everything.
“You have a lot in common,” one of the suits croaked, mouth a thin straight line.
“She’s truly a sweet girl,” another one added.
“It’s up to you,” they had all pressed, diligent on that point, but the way no one else spoke and the way it was Harry who had been chosen, suggested that they already had their answer. Louis had held his breath and not said a word. For the rest of the meeting they rolled through topic after topic, dates for press conferences and upcoming charity events, but Louis hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything other than that painting. He knew that if he dropped his eyes for a second, if he moved his head even a little, he’d be forced to look at Harry and he could not bear to see his face. His voice had been enough, soft and unchallenging, when he’d said `okay´ and Louis had been able to hear the grin in it, sense the rise and fall of his shoulder like it didn’t even matter, like it was nothing. After the meeting, Louis had taken a separate car and gone to Starbucks and ordered the sweetest, most caffeinated, largest drink on the menu. He had sat down and drank it, alone, and when he finished he had told the driver to take him back to the hotel where he had ran up the seven flights, not trusting the confinement of the elevator, and had thrown open their hotel door to see Harry fresh out of the shower, making plans with people who were not him.
Het is weer zo vroeg!
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